Reports of Iran 'halal' intranet are contradictory

The Telegraph reports on a speech given by Reza Taghipour, the Iranian telecommunications minister, at Amirkabir University. The Iranian intent, it seems, is to shield sensitive national intelligence from from an internet controlled by “one or two’ countries hostile to Iran – and especially, of course, to those countries controlling malware such as Stuxnet and Flame (largely perceived to be Israel and the US).

What still isn’t clear is whether this move represents the first steps of a completely closed national intranet. The Telegraph report says, “He described the move as the first phase of a project to replace the global internet with a domestic intranet system scheduled to be completed within 18 months.” This might suggest that the Iranian people will eventually be denied access to the world internet, a plan that was widely reported earlier this year.

However, an AFP report in April said there were no such plans. It quotes a statement from the ministry of communication and information technology (a site that is noticeably not available outside of Iran), saying, “‘The report is in no way confirmed by the ministry’ and is ‘completely baseless,’ the ministry statement said.” AFP adds that the ministry claims the ‘hoax’ was serving “the propaganda wing of the West and providing its hostile media with a pretext emanating from a baseless claim.”

Nevertheless, Taghipour’s latest comments would suggest that an initial government intranet might in the long term be extended to a full-scale closed national intranet. Whether it is technically feasible is another matter. The Telegraph quotes Nima Rashedan, an Iranian cyber-security specialist based in the Czech Republic: "In terms of cyber security, Iran is one of the most backward countries I know," he said. "Because of the dis-functionality of the government, I don't think they will be able to implement it properly.”

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